If there is another RV destination in Nevada that features stunning rock formations, lush greenery, and even a sparkling cooling-off swimming pool, we aren’t sure where that place is. Kershaw-Ryan State Park has all these things, and more.
This park is in the heart of Kershaw Canyon, which is one of the most stunning canyons in the state. Its rock walls tower as high as 700 feet above the desert floor. These canyon walls teem with wildlife. In the spring, the wildflowers come alive, making the colorful canyon even more picturesque.
A little further down the valley, natural underground springs create a desert oasis. Most RV campers do not think that grapevines and fruit trees grow in Nevada, but they haven’t been to Kershaw-Ryan State Park. These springs create a naturally-clean pool. Lots of people take a break from their rigs to relax here, and many of the local wildlife approach this pool for a drink.
The park also includes some very well-developed hiking trails and other camping amenities. Most of these things were built in the 1990s, because a 1984 flash flood destroyed the entire park. These developments and amenities include a dozen large and shady RV parking spots.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park is not far from the Utah border. about 100 miles northeast of Las Vegas. This part of the state is about as desolate as it gets. There are a few towns scattered about, but “town” may be giving these communities too much credit. Many of them do not even have gas stations. So, before you leave Las Vegas, be sure you have a full tank of gas, a full tummy, and plenty of RV camping supplies.
U.S. Highway 93, which is the main north-south roadway in this part of Nevada, is rather narrow. However, there’s practically no traffic so navigating it in your RV should be no problem. If possible, change drivers frequently. The surrounding mountain scenery is pretty awesome and you won’t want to miss it.
The motorhome campground is near the park entrance. There is plenty of large vehicle parking in this area. To reach the hiking trails and more scenic parts of Kershaw Canyon, follow the main park road past the greenhouse to another large parking area. This loop is near the major trailheads and the park’s day use area.
The 12-site campground is located near the park entrance and visitor's center, where there is lots of information about the park and the surrounding area. Each RV campsite has a shade ramada, fire ring, barbecue grill, and picnic table. Some sites even feature water and electric hookups. So, day or night, you can spend some quality time outdoors. An RV dump station and restrooms are available as well. From the campground, you'll have easy access to hiking and picnicking along the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park has two main hiking trails. There are some steps here and there, so they are primarily designed for foot hikers with or without leashed animals. The 0.1-mile Rattlesnake Loop Trail is right next to parking area. It’s mostly level and well-marked. By the way, they call this trail Rattlesnake Loop for a reason. Watch out for these critters, especially in the summer. The 1.4-mile Canyon Overlook Trail is more of a backcountry trail, especially in some places. It’s also quite a bit steeper and rockier than Rattlesnake Loop. There are several very nice scenic overlooks at the outer part of the loop. But if you don’t want to go that far, several cutoffs are available.
The main picnic area is located off Rattlesnake Loop, right before you get to the real loop part of this trail. Several sheltered picnic areas are available. If they are in use, you can probably find a good spot under an oak tree. Another large picnic area is located near the wading pool. That’s a very nice place to have lunch in the desert. Smaller and more isolated picnic tables are scattered throughout this area as well, especially near the motorhome parking area and day use area. Most tables have barbecue grills.
Remember we said that a flash flood destroyed this park in the 1980s? About 50 years earlier, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers developed this park during the Great Depression. The flood destroyed most of their work, but some of it remains. Other CCC areas have been restored. Kershaw-Ryan’s Civilian Conservation Corps Area features some displays about the area’s history, as well as two photo-op foot bridges of rocks and riverbeds.
There are not very many places in the world where deserts quite literally bloom, but Kershaw-Ryan State Park is one such place. The greenhouse is about halfway between the RV campground and the day use area. So, it’s an ideal place to park your campervan and walk around a while. Much of the foliage, including the trees and vines, grew naturally. Additionally, park staff have planted hundreds of colorful flowers.
Rattlesnakes are not the only wildlife in this park. Most of the other inhabitants are creatures you actually want to see. Larger mammals, like deer and even wild horses, often descend to the spring-fed wading pool. Smaller mammals, like rabbits and squirrels, abound here as well. Go up into the rocks of the canyon to see even more wildlife, like coyotes and even some elusive mountain lions.
Eastern Nevada and Western Utah have some of the darkest night skies in the country, especially on moonless winter nights. And, Kershaw-Ryan State Park has a number of high-altitude overlooks that are ideal for stargazing. With a low-power telescope, you can see the moon, Mars, and Venus almost like they were next door. Bring a stronger telescope to see similar features on the faraway Gas Giants. You don’t need either one of these things to see lots of shooting stars, especially during meteor showers.